Putnam City teacher Lois Thomas, right, inspired thousands of students to get involved in philanthropy through the district’s annual Cancer Drive. Thomas, who died in 2007, founded the drive in 1975 after losing several of her colleagues to cancer. The drive has raised more than $3.4 million for research at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.

Putnam City Schools officials recently presented the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation with a check for $103,000, marking 40 years of support for the foundation’s cancer research efforts. Since the Cancer Drive started in 1975, Putnam City Schools have raised more than $3.3 million for cancer research at OMRF.
This year’s funds exceeded the target goal of $100,000, which was set to commemorate the district’s 100th anniversary.
“When we planned our centennial observance and looked back over 100 years of district history, one of the things that stood out was our relationship with OMRF,” said Putnam City Schools Superintendent Dr. Fred Rhodes. “It’s something that helps define us as a district and makes us unique. It was instantly apparent that our relationship with OMRF needed to be recognized and celebrated. It was a calling for us to set a fund-raising goal and pour energy and time into it.”
The Cancer Drive was started by Lois Thomas, a Putnam City teacher who chose to act when several of her coworkers and family fell victim to cancer. In 1975, Thomas and a small group of friends went door to door to raise money to help combat the disease. Thomas died in 2007, but her dream of making an impact on cancer is alive and going stronger than ever.
Everything from bake sales to garage sales and carnivals to volleyball tournaments have been used to raise the funds for Putnam City’s annual gifts to OMRF over the past four decades. The addition of the Putnam City Cancer Classic, a 5k run held every November, and the Fun Run have become staples in these efforts, raising more than $15,000 each year.
“What an incredible 40-year partnership OMRF and Putnam City Schools have. From Lois Thomas’ vision of raising funds to support ailing colleagues and it growing into a district-wide fundraising effort, I am truly blown away by the togetherness that this district displays year after year,” said OMRF Senior Development Associate Allison Parker. “Even better, it benefits cancer research, which touches most of us in one way or another. OMRF is incredibly lucky to have such a friendship.”
OMRF has continued to give back to the district, as well, with its annual Putnam City Junior Scientist Days, bringing inquisitive young students into the lab for hands-on research with OMRF’s top scientists.
Cancer Drive donations also established the Putnam City Schools Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research at OMRF, held by scientist Linda Thompson, Ph.D. Thompson’s research has helped created a risk assessment test for breast cancer.
“OMRF is honored to have such a long-standing relationship with Putnam City Schools, and we are grateful for their continued support of our efforts to work toward a cure for cancer,” said Thompson.
It is a relationship that has continued to flourish and kept Thomas’ mission alive for future students in the district.
“Think about Putnam City’s history with OMRF: hundreds of thousands of district students have raised money for cancer research. Hundreds of students have been thrilled, intrigued and inspired as they worked side-by-side with Oklahoma’s most accomplished medical researchers,” said Putnam City Director of Communications Steve Lindley. “For 40 out of our 100 years, we’ve helped OMRF and OMRF has helped us. It’s a relationship that means the world to the district.”